The town’s early origins seem to be lost in the mists of history. According to mythology, the god Poseidon gave the land here as a gift to a nymph called Pasitea. However, archaeological evidence points to the remains of a Palaeolithic settlement around present-day Positano.
Positano may have grown up when pirates attacked a group of Romans, forcing them to land at this point on the Mediterranean coast. The Romans who did eventually settle here built many grand villas and the ruins of some of these are still visible today. However, it wasn’t until the 9th century that the heart of the present-day town was first developed. At its centre was a Benedictine abbey. Its population rose as a result of immigrants fleeing from Saracen attacks on Paestum.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, Positano developed its sea trade with Middle Eastern countries. In the main, spices and silks were traded. This was a period of relative peace and prosperity. Grand baroque houses were built with terraces that overlooked the sea. Throughout the 18th century, Positano continued to enjoy its wealth.
Positano also became a chic resort for Hollywood actors and celebrities, including the likes of film director Zeffirelli and movie legend Elizabeth Taylor. On the back of Steinbeck’s prose, other tourists were drawn here. Many of the town’s more exclusive villas were a product of this ‘golden’ post-war period. More recently, Positano has served as a backdrop for several notable films, while tourism has become the staple industry in the town